Discussions and attempts at negotiations continue in Yellowknife, as City workers continue their ongoing strike.
On Feb 15th, union leaders invited Yellowknife’s Mayor and Council to meet with us and discuss some of the issues our members are experiencing. Mayor Alty refused, saying it would be inappropriate to have these discussions behind closed doors, adding that it was a matter to take before the Council.
On February 23rd, however, the president of the UNW Local 345 registered with the City to speak at Monday’s Council meeting about the strike/lockout to publicly share workers’ perspectives. That same day, the City Clerk refused her presentation as well as a presentation from a member of the public, saying it would be inappropriate to make a public presentation on “personnel matters” before council.
This angered the Union, who stated that the city cannot have it both ways. In a statement, Gayla Thunstrom, the President of the UNW, said that “if the strike / lockout is a matter before Council, as the Mayor states, then Council needs to address it during council meetings or, at the very least, allow constituents to speak to it so they can have their voice heard. If it is not, then the City should have no problem with Councilors meeting with Union leaders to hear what the workers they represent have to say.”
We reached out to the city, and were provided with a response on this situation.
“Pursuant to Section 52 of Council Procedures By-law No. 4975, the Mayor and City Manager together may deny a request to present to Council if the subject matter pertains to legal matters, personnel matters, matters already heard before Council, matters considered during Private Meetings in accordance with the Cities, Towns and Villages Act, or matters not within the jurisdiction of Council. Personnel matters by definition include matters related to an individual’s employment; in this case, employment with the City of Yellowknife. As the current strike/lockout is directly related to (or a product of) the ongoing collective bargaining between the City and the Union representing City employees, the strike/lockout is a personnel matter.”
While this situation is ongoing, residents can contact Council by following this link.
“Council’s role in setting terms of employment are laid out in the Cities, Towns and Villages Act (S. 48), including pay and benefits, HR processes for appointment promotion, discipline and dismissal, and entering into collective agreements on behalf of the City. Council’s key role in collective bargaining is to set the financial mandate (the maximum budget allocation) and ratify tentative agreement when reached. Administration is responsible for negotiating an agreement with the Union within mandate. Council seeks to balance fair and attractive pay and benefits for our staff, who are an important asset to the community, with the cost of running the City and delivering the services Yellowknifers rely on. Council’s main interest remains to negotiate an agreement that is fair, respectful and affordable.
It is also a contract negotiation with a significant monetary impact – $29 million is budgeted in 2023 for wages and benefits overall. Like any contract negotiation underway, it would not be appropriate for Council to meet with the proponents.
The City of Yellowknife reiterates that the proper channel for negotiations still remains at the bargaining table and the City is ready to return to the table anytime. As well, the City’s proposal of joining binding arbitration still stands.”